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  • The top quarterbacks thought to be in the Heisman running have been less than inspiring so far, but there are several running backs in position to punch tickets to New York.
By Bruce Feldman
October 08, 2017

Thus far any expectations that this was going to be The Year of the Quarterback have not held up: We’ve seen a bunch of running backs putting up big numbers and a lot of inconsistency from many of the top quarterbacks. It still feels like a three-horse race for the 2017 Heisman right now. Three other backs who didn’t crack this week’s list—San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Georgia’s Nick Chubb—still have a shot to run their way into tickets to New York. The quarterback group seems less than inspiring at this point, especially after Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma took their first loss of the year, but it’s a long season.

1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State, RB: The nation’s best all-around back once again didn’t have huge rushing numbers, gaining 75 yards on 16 carries for two touchdowns as the Nittany Lions thumped Northwestern on the road. Barkley may be the rare running back who can overcome relatively modest rushing yard totals and still win the Heisman. In four of six games this season he’s been held below 100 yards rushing, but it’s the other areas of his game as the centerpiece of a top-five team that will win him key votes. He sits second in the nation in all-purpose yards at 217 per game, trailing only Penny.

2. Bryce Love, Stanford, RB: When you run for 152 yards on 20 carries in a road win over a Top 20 team and those numbers actually hurt your stat line, you know you’re having a special season. Love’s yards per carry average dropped to 10.5 from 11.1. Love is still rushing for 33 yards per game more (207) than the nation’s No. 2 rusher, Navy quarterback Zach Abey. Love now has 16 runs of 30-plus yards over Stanford's first six games; in the previous two years, no one has had more than 13 in an entire season. He has been fantastic, but Stanford’s late kickoffs are in danger of hurting his cause.

3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB: The Sooners’ playoff hopes took a big hit with their upset loss against Iowa State, and Mayfield’s solid showing—24 of 33 for 306 yards and two TD passes—couldn’t overcome another mediocre defensive effort by his teammates in a 38–31 loss. Mayfield’s season numbers are still eye-popping: 74.6% completion rate, 15 touchdown passes, no interceptions. He’s still in decent position, but he’s going to need both backs above him to stumble if he’s going to push for the award.

4. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama, DB: We need to give some love to the best player on the nation’s best team. Fitzpatrick, the leader of the Tide’s defense, had five tackles, two for a loss, one forced fumble, one interception and one pass broken up in the win at Texas A&M. He does everything for Nick Saban’s defense. He’s actually leading Alabama in tackles for loss this season with 4.5. He has also blocked a kick and broken up four passes.

5. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin, RB: The bruising freshman back notched his second 200-plus yard rushing effort in just his fifth college game, as he scorched Nebraska for 249 in a 38–17 Badgers romp in Lincoln. He’s up to fourth in the country in rushing at 153.4 yards per game. The knocks against Taylor: He has zero receiving yards and Wisconsin’s schedule has been very underwhelming so far.

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